I see two types of sugar in the baking aisle that I can't differentiate: "granulated sugar" and "granulated cane sugar". The latter is considerably more expensive. So, what is the difference between granulated cane sugar and this (unspecified) granulated sugar, and why would I want to choose one over the other?

As I understand it, cane sugar is extracted exclusively from sugar cane, while the other kind (the one that is not labeled as cane) can be a mixture of sucrose from several sources. Is this difference enough to make one a better candidate when cooking? baking? sweetening tea/coffee?

  • Are you in the US? Most sugar in the US is cane sugar... if you're in Europe, it might be more likely to find beet sugar.
    – Catija
    Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 1:18
  • This question refers to the sugar in the US
    – Austin D
    Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 1:18
  • 3
    It makes a bigger difference if something made in the US is labelled as being sweetened with cane sugar, because the alternative isn't usually beet sugar it's high fructose corn syrup. That's pretty much a US only thing though, since most of the rest of the world doesn't have corn subsidies pushing down the price of HFCS and sugar quotas pushing up the price of refined sugar (cane or beet).
    – Ross Ridge
    Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 4:49

5 Answers 5


There is no real difference between types of granulated, white sugar. The options you are likely to see are cane sugar and beet sugar. Granulated sugar from sugarcane is often considered "superior" to beet sugar by Americans, but the idea that cane sugar is in any way superior to beet sugar has no basis. Granulated beet sugar and granulated cane sugar are completely interchangeable and indistinguishable. Swapping them will cause no issue.

By the way - this is sugarcane:

enter image description here

These are sugar beets:

enter image description here

I'd post a picture of the granulated sugar made from each, but it seems kind of pointless as they look the same.

enter image description here

On this question (almost an exact duplicate), some posters see a small difference. I never have. The difference between beet sugar and cane sugar

  • So, if it's not labeled "cane sugar", then it's beet sugar?
    – Austin D
    Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 2:10
  • 1
    In the US or Europe, most likely, yes. For whatever reason, Americans seem to trust sugar more if it comes from cane, perhaps because we grow it.
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 2:16
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    Saying that, "the idea that cane sugar is in any way superior to beet sugar has no basis," is an overly strong and unnecessarily dismissive statement that could be better worded to take back into account the opening statement in regards to white sugar. There are many non-white varieties (see wikipedia) with different cooking characteristics, not to mention flavor levels.
    – user45957
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 1:25
  • 1
    @user45957 I'm pretty sure the OP was about white sugar, though, so this all seems fair. ("granulated sugar" refers to white sugar by default; you'd explicitly say "brown" if you meant it)
    – Cascabel
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 5:14
  • @Jefromi ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25124655 does show that there are nontrivial sensory differences between beet and cane sugars.
    – verbose
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 10:09

In some regions, processing methods for commonly marketed sugar types are known to use or not use refining techniques using animal-derived ingredients. Some vegetarians will prefer the types not using such technique, or even avoid those that do.


Cane sugar does not contain galactose which is in beet sugar. This is of important consequence to people who are galactosemic. Beet sugar has also been processed using sodium bisulfite, and the residue may bother those allergic to sulfites.

  • This is factually wrong, both cane and beet sugar are pure sucrose.
    – rumtscho
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 8:10

Beet sugar is made from sugar beets, which in the US are often treated with pesticide that cane sugar is not. Traces of said pesticides, minute though they may be are found in cane sugar.

This is why beekeepers will only use Cane Sugar to supplement their bees over the winter. Beet sugar can contaminate the honey.

Additionally, many beets are now GMO crops, while sugar cane is non-modified. https://www.gardenfork.tv/honeybee-sugar-syrup-why-use-only-cane-sugar/

  • 4
    Hello and welcome! The first paragraph of your answer contradicts itself. Could you please edit to clarify?
    – Cindy
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 18:03

Yes BUT i do not believe that beet sugar has the same setting property when it comes to jam making.

  • Hello Pepita, we are pretty strict on what kind of posts we take. Rants about how you hate the products you can get are not accepted, and answers have to directly address the quesiton. The only sentence in your post that qualified was your statement that you think they set differently, so I had to edit everything else out.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 18:50

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